In pig farming, animal welfare is often mentioned in the same context as Scandinavia, and Sweden in particular. The Dutch Agricultural Youth Contact (NAJK) with twenty young pig farmers traveled to Sweden to orient themselves.
Sweden, with its high income and good social security, is one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Animal welfare also includes more than just docking in the tail. A large number of aspects of animal welfare are determined by law – so not by market forces or private labels.
In addition to the prohibition of docking, castration is permitted only with local anesthetic and analgesia. Litter is mandatory for all animal groups. Three-quarters of the lying area is closed in the anesthesia pen. The seeding should be fixed only in the first days after anesthesia or during treatment. Pigs are at least 28 days old before weaning.
number of animals
There are also standards for where to feed – in meters per animal – and for the number of animals per drinking place. A maximum of two hundred fattening pigs per section and four hundred pigs may be kept if all in all is used.
Pigs aren’t necessarily better off in Sweden, but they can show more normal behavior there
“All these points together create a different picture when you are in company,” Daphne Fliegen, Eric Pacis and Chairman Tim van der Mark sum up their visit to Sweden extensively.
More stable revenue model
The majority of pig farms in Sweden have closed; On the farm where pigs are born, they are also prepared for slaughter. The companies have a lot of land on which they grow their own animal feed and rooftops with solar panels. “It’s self-sufficient in nutrition and energy, which gives you a more stable business model,” van der Mark notes.
Swedish pig breeding has a circular character. Pig farmers grow forage crops and can dispose of pig manure on their land. About 80 to 90 percent of pigs are kept on liquid feed. The grains are finely ground. The rest is coarser, as is the protein, which surprises NAJK employees. Protein is the most expensive component. The better you grind, the better it absorbs,” Passies notes.
Pig tails are not docked in Sweden. “It’s not a problem,” says van der Mark. NAJK employees list various reasons for this. For example, Sweden is free of PRRS, no animals are bought from other countries, companies are far apart and there are few relocations.
Flying, Paschens and van der Mark do not have hard numbers, but the daily dose of an animal in Sweden is lower than in the rest of Europe. This, along with the high standards of animal care, gives the Swedish pig breeding industry a superior profile. So the Swedes prefer homemade pork and are willing to pay more for it. They are of the opinion that keeping pigs with intact tails has perfected the craft.
A free slimming loft has been mandatory in Sweden since the 1980s. The high mortality rate of pigs before weaning – 18 percent excluding stillborn pigs – associated with this was accepted. Also because Swedish pig breeders were able to reduce the mortality rate after weaning to 3 to 4 percent.
In Sweden, as in the Netherlands, the TN70 implant has gained popularity. On many farms, the Duroc terminal bear gives way to a tempo bear.
NAJK’ers were surprised by the stable climate. The temperature in the barn, as well as in the perforating barn where the piglet nest is, is about 18 degrees. There is continuous ventilation at a minimum of 60 percent and air enters directly at high speed through the roof, while air is extracted from under the slats. In the Netherlands they say this combination is deadly. You will never do that to us.
According to Vliegen, Passies and Van der Mark, the way Swedes can operate in Sweden depends on the way Swedes feed and interact with animals at all stages of life. Passion: “The animals are familiar with the way they live.”
“It appears that the basis for the tail-biting problems was already laid during pregnancy,” Fligen notes. She works for Vitelia Voeders and among those involved in the Livar concept, she sees that it is possible to keep pigs with intact tails.
straw as a converting material
Passies and Van der Mark stress that straw plays an important role as a transforming material. There is something to chew on all day and make pigs feel full. A new system that chops straw and filters the best particulate through which dust is removed before it is blown into the barn, is attracting huge passion. “This saves a lot of work with dispersal.”
Passion turns organic and wants to build a new 150-seed numbing pen. “That was one of the reasons I went.” Van der Mark also has building plans. The trip to Sweden confirmed his thoughts on the new barn for the final pigs.
Investing in animal welfare
In ten years there will be fewer pigs in the Netherlands. For Vliegen, Passions and Van der Mark, this is indisputable. When they have to invest in animal welfare, this results in fewer animals per site. The question of whether fewer animals per site and more space per animal automatically means increased animal welfare, they call an “interesting discussion”.
Flying: Pigs are not necessarily better off in Sweden, but they can show more normal behaviour. The dropout rate is higher there, but you can manage that with your management.
A vast area in Sweden surprises the Dutch
“The space is phenomenal,” answered Daphne Flegen and Eric Pacis when asked what surprised them most during their visit to Sweden with the Dutch Agricultural Youth Connection (NAJK). Sweden covers an area of 450,295 square kilometres, which is 11 times larger than the Netherlands and has a population of 10.4 million. About a third of them live in the capital, Stockholm. Sweden has eight hundred pig farms with 1.4 million pigs (Eurostat 2022). These companies are mainly located in the south of the country, in the part called Skane. The self-sufficiency rate of pork is nearly 70 percent. Swedish pig farmers get 40 cents an extra kilogram for fattening pigs. The labor requirements of a Swedish pig farm are 15 to 20 percent higher than that of a Dutch farm. “But as long as it’s paid well, that shouldn’t be a problem,” Vliegen and Passies comment.